Friendship, Sweet Friendship

Friends are amazing – long term friends, short term friends, friends you see only at work, friends you see once a year, friends of the family, friends who live close, friends who live far. “Friend” is one word that is really indefinable – it can expand or contract to cover any number of different people in your life at one time or another.

I generally tell people that I don’t have a lot of friends – life is easier that way, really. I don’t feel obligated to help a bunch of people move or to invite a whole lot of people over for brunch or even feel as though I have to talk to a myriad of friends on the phone or communicate with them via email. I have just enough friends – some whom I almost never see and some who I see on a regular basis. Some with whom I have a great deal in common and have known for what seems like forever and some who I am only still just getting to know. All of them are important in different ways and each of them offers me something that I can’t get from anyone else…whether they know it or not.

One friend who I don’t know quite as well as I would like is Kat. I know a lot about her and her life and her husband and her son, Max – pretty much all through her blog. But as far as friendships go, the two of us haven’t even scratched the surface yet, although I have a feeling we will in time.

Recently, Kat’s son Max was diagnosed with Autism, and when I first found out it was a complete shock. Max is only two months older than Leith…so you do the math I was doing in my own head. I know quite a bit about the Autistic Spectrum; I’ve met kids with the diagnosis and worked closely with them and their parents. That next week I searched my own still non-speaking child’s face for signs I had been hoping would not appear in any child. I was over-reacting and Leith soon after started speaking (I think he was saving his speech until he knew he could really irritate us with “WHY” and “CUZ” and “NO” and “BANANA CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS”) and there were no other remote signs. But Max didn’t get better. Max got worse.

Kat and her husband have ridden the storm with him and he is thankfully doing quite well now. Kat, on the other hand, is up to her armpits in legal mumbo-jumbo trying to get funding for her sweet child to have treatment for his diagnosis.

A few Christmases ago, Kat and I decided to do a “sweets exchange” with each other. My decadent Peppermint Bark for her tantalizing Cranberry Almond Bark (shown above). I have to say it was one of the nicest gifts I received that year and I savored each and every one of those delicious cranberry almond chocolate shards. Friends can indeed come in handy – especially friends like Kat.

Right now Kat needs some support…and couldn’t we all at one point or another? So if you want to support a friend, please go to Mabel’s Label’s and vote for Fickle Feline 2.0 (voting closes Feb 23rd at noon) to send this amazing mom of an autistic boy to Chicago so that she can continue to advocate for funding for Autism through her blog.

Murphy’s Law

Everyone has days when they wonder why they got out of bed, don’t they? I know they must – I can’t possibly be the only one.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s raining outside and your alarm clock goes off. You stumble to the bathroom only to stub your toe on the door to the linen closet and hobble through the door while narrowly escaping being hit in the head by the hook on the back of said door as you close it. Through some kind of minor miracle you don’t drown in the shower but you do discover your hair conditioner is all gone and somehow there is no soap. A makeshift set of ablutions later and you carefully pick your way through the land mines of toys and make your way back to your room.

And the day only continues along those lines.

Slam your finger in filing drawer.

Catch your finger on a staple and snag it.



Coffee spills.

It seems that the world is indeed trying to tell you to go home and go back to bed, but for some unknown reason you refuse to listen. You soldier on through the day of dreadfulness, just looking forward to being home again. Home is your sanctuary – at home you will relax and put your feet up and not have anymore accidents.

Of course at home, waiting for you is the world’s largest IKEA dresser, that for some reason your husband has decided would be best for you and your 2 ½ year-old son to put together…together.

A few hammered thumbs (yours) and a couple of pinched toes (his) later and the dresser is together. No one is missing any body parts and there are only a few screws and bolts left over. You decide to treat your little helper to something really delicious for dinner and make one of his favourites: home made fish sticks. Your asbestos fingers take yet another beating at the hands of your oven but your son smiles as his takes his first bite. All is good with the world.

Of course it is only later, when your husband arrives home and points out that you put the drawers together inside out that you start to shake and very carefully climb back into bed and pull the covers up over your head…praying that tomorrow will be even just slightly better.

One Night

The frigid air rattles against the kitchen window, trying to get in, as I stir a pot on the stove. Its contents bubble and roll and I think briefly about climbing in and allowing the soft, warm food to envelop me. The daydream ends in a cacophony as Leith tumbles into the kitchen, rambling in his own two year-old language about cars and dinosaurs and trains. He’s managed to wrap them all up in a "blankie" (nee tea towel) and would like me to put them to bed.

Various inanimate objects all tucked in nice and warm, dinner is finally ready and Leith and I gather ourselves together at the table, one of us in a highchair with a sippy cup and plastic plate, the other with a wine glass and cutlery without rubberized handles. S. is at school tonight so we are on our own, which, admittedly, is nice, though he is missed by both of us.

After dinner a warm bubble bath is in order for Leith and a few of his "baby dinos"; a treat for him. His bath is a treat for me as well because I get to sit in a cozy bathroom and read while he splashes, washes and thoroughly enjoys himself – tiring himself out completely at the same time. A pair of dino pajamas and a good-night story later and Leith is in bed and I have the house – and the evening – to myself.

What to do…?

I have turkey stock in the fridge that needs one more strain before it can be frozen. I have chutney and chili jam in the cold room that still needs to be labeled. I have recipes that need organizing and weekly menus and grocery lists to update. There are dishes to do, laundry to fold and of course emails to answer and voice mails to attend to. And I could easily go on…

I decide to reheat those delectable kernels of creamed corn from dinner that Leith enjoyed so very much, park myself on the couch with a bowl and a spoon and enjoy my one evening alone and do absolutely nothing. I didn’t even turn on the television. It was heavenly. If S. hadn’t returned home, chilled to the bone and tired from a very long day at school I doubt I would have parted company with that couch for at least a few more hours.

The corn by the way, reheated one more time, banished his chills and brought a smile to his face. Food just seems to have a way of curing that which ails you.

I Gave at the Office (literally!)

For me, Christmas really is all about giving. I love to give people presents any time of year, so when the holidays roll around I tend to go overboard and dole out the gifts to one and all with reckless abandon. I remember in years past (pre-husband, pre-baby, pre-illness, pre-house, pre-new job) when I seemingly had all the time in the world; I would bake treats and lovingly prepare packages for everyone I knew. A dozen different types of sweet delicacies wrapped tenderly in wax and tissue paper, addressed only to the luckiest of people in my life.

The recipients would gush and smile and peek inside, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the contents while they mentally tried to decide what they would break into first. Of course I ate up the adoration with a spoon and it only served to spurr me on the following year when I would go through it all once again.

But that was pre-everything that rules my life now (see above), back when time was not quite so scarce a commodity. Even last year I toned things down a bit and cut the dozen treats to about half and the packaging was not quite as nice as I would have liked.

This year I’m not quite sure what happened. I had lists of people, lists of foodstuffs and lines all over these lists attaching names to preferred treats. I was organized with shopping lists and recipes and schedules. And then whammo! It didn’t happen. The weekend that I was supposed to be baking up a veritable storm I ended up on the couch, half asleep and stuffed up with an awful cold. All that following week I kept promising myself I was going to tackle the baking and everyday I just…well…didn’t. There was work-work to do, house-work to do, husbands and sons to take care of, laundry to fold, sleep to catch up on…and the baking never got done.

I ended up finally, the day before I wanted to give out my gifties, taking a vacation day from work. I spent it in my kitchen, making a gigantic batch of utterly gorgeous Chili Pepper Jam. While it might not have been as taste-bud tempting as my usual sweet delights, it is absolutely striking, and quite festive with it’s flecks of red throughout. Sweet and quite spicy, this "jam" goes great with cheese, eggs, and is particularly good spread on a turkey sandwich…maybe even with a little cranberry chutney (recipe to come soon) joining it.

Sweet Dreams ’till Sunbeams Find You

When the sleet starts to fall and the wind begins to howl around every corner all I can think of is the trip I took, seemingly in another lifetime, to the Dominican Republic. It was about ten years ago (definitely another lifetime), before S., before Leith and before I stopped wearing bikinis in public. I spent most of the week lounging on a beach chaise with a drink in one hand and a book in the other, slathered from head to toe with 40 SPF and most of my skin covered by a beach umbrella. It was hot, the drinks were cold and the food was amazing.

Continue reading “Sweet Dreams ’till Sunbeams Find You”

The Heavy Skies

Winter is quickly approaching. The skies are heavy with it when the wind blows just a bit stronger and slightly colder. It is right around the corner with burnt orange leaves scattering themselves on the sidewalks and kids sloshing through the freezing rain. Everywhere stores are putting up Christmas decorations and Santa is settling down in every mall across the city. Winter is definitely on its way.

Something happens to me this time of year…for some reason I am giddy and smiling (even if it is a tired smile) as the days become shorter and the evenings grow cooler. It might be the promise of better sleeps (I have trouble sleeping in the summer) or the idea of seeing the snow beginning to fall. It is perhaps the snuggly sweaters and wool suits all the stores have in their windows…and tall boots – I just happen to love tall boots. It could be the idea of a lovely holiday in December that revolves around turkey and stuffing and family. It may be the nearness of the New Year and a fresh start…and snow… I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly but I get pretty koo-koo this time of year.

Perhaps it is how autumnal foods seem to be more comforting, more soothing to me than other dishes. Vegetables stewing together happily with chunks of slow-cooked meats. Noodles being featured prominently in dishes and hearty stews and chilies finally coming back into mode. I can once again make my own stocks and roast some of the summer’s last tomatoes to store for the winter, and use up the last of the *last* of the beautiful berries before they all go dormant for the season.


Having a child in daycare is absolute torture.

Leith is coming home on a daily basis knowing new things, having learned new words, acting more independent and – I swear – having grown a good inch taller. He loves it but I’m having a hard time tolerating it.

Not that I want the learning and the autonomy (and the growing) to stop – I don’t. The one thing I would like to stop is the constant flow of colds he has been trekking into our house. Everyone warned me that having a two year old in daycare was going to mean having someone in my house with a constantly runny nose, but no one explained that that nose might just end up being my own.

I have spent the last two weeks attempting to cough up a lung with the latest "cold" and even succumbed to asking my doctor to order a chest x-ray the other day just to make sure I wasn’t harboring a wayward case of pneumonia within my chest.

So please excuse my absence – I was away from the blog and the kitchen, these last few weeks. Last night I finally was able to keep myself from coughing for the time it took to cook dinner, and through a cold medicine-induced haze somehow managed to turn out the perfect meal. Soup is always good for whatever might be ailing you, and this soup in particular was exactly what my raw, sore throat and aching rumbling chest required.

A Cure for House Headaches

Friday night I arrived home from work to a pot of delicious-smelling Bolognese sauce bubbling on the stove. S. had been home all day with Leith and they had decided to make me dinner. It was absolutely delicious, if a little messy. Leith also approved the dish and although he managed to eat most of it, a great deal of it ended up in his hair and on his face and hands. Directly after dinner I stripped him bare and shuffled him upstairs to the shower. As we stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to heat up he grinned up at me impishly from behind a veil of tomato sauce (which I regretfully did not get a picture of), delicately showing me his sauce-covered hands, telling me how dirty they were.

Five full minutes later the water was still running cold. This is when I started to panic and called down to S. to check the hot water tank in the basement. Immediately images of our belongings floating on a sea of dirty basement water crossed my mind and I blocked it out quickly. Perhaps the tank was just empty…S. had done the dishes before dinner hadn’t he? S.’s response to my slightly panicked query was that I should let the water run longer – and under his breath I’m sure he muttered something about how women are truly useless…but we’ll never know. After another few minutes I called to him again, explaining that I thought there was something very wrong with our water tank as the hot water was still running cold after almost ten minutes. He reluctantly got up off the couch and headed down the stairs. Within about 10 seconds I hear a yelp and him running back up the stairs telling me that the water tank had burst.

Luckily we have a sloped basement and all of our things were in the higher part and there is actually a drain within ten feet of our hot water tank – the house Gods were looking down on us on Friday. Nothing was damaged except for a box of laundry detergent, a few dust bunnies and perhaps my own desire to continue to own our house. The tank was replaced over the weekend and everything went quite smoothly all things considered. Of course on top of replacing the hot water tank we now also have to replace the furnace (it’s a long story), and that absolutely has to be done in the next few weeks.

As I stood in my kitchen on Monday afternoon kneading dough I just kept telling myself that it could be worse. We’ve been through much worse. Things can always be worse. I think the gastronomic reflexology helped more than the mantra; nonetheless I felt much better afterwards. Of course, the smell of fresh-baked bread tends to be a cure-all for anything that might ail me.

Sick Little Boy

My son has been sick quite a bit recently (he just started daycare) and this past time it was awful. I put him in bed for the night and within 15 minutes he was awake, upset and crying, calling for "Mama" and "Baba" at the top of his lungs. Going to his room I expected him to want a book or his blanket repositioned, which is the norm for him. Generally Leith is an excellent sleeper, but when he is sick all bets are off.

He was sitting up, sniffling and obviously quite congested. I picked him up to try to calm him a bit and immediately he was pointing at his bed, indicating that he wanted to be returned to it. I settled him, tucking him in – placing blankets where requested and certain animals in the bed as per usual – only to be summoned by his plaintive cries a scant 15 minutes later. This time I gathered him up in his lion blanket and trucked him off to my bed. S. was downstairs studying and I figured a few hours sleep beside me was better than 15 minute naps. At least if he woke up in my bed I could settle him quicker and easier and get him back to sleep again.

This arrangement worked for a few hours – until he woke up, more congested and even more miserable than he’d been before. Because I had to be at work super-early for a meeting S. and I agreed that he would try to settle Leith himself. Both Leith and I managed to sleep then – until about 4am. Then the coughing began. He sounded like an ailing seal and my sleep-deprived brain managed to summon one brief word: CROUP. A terribly scary word to the mother of a toddler, and one I personally abhor. I woke myself up a little more, ventured down the hall to his room and listened again. I could hear that his breathing wasn�t laboured and that he was going to be okay without any medical interventions, at least for the time-being.

At that point, S. ended up taking Leith downstairs so that I could sleep for one more hour. Both of them ended up going back to bed just as I was getting up to take a shower. I managed somehow to get dressed in the near-dark, tip-toeing around the house so as not to wake either of my sleeping, snoring boys.

All morning I continued to think about Leith and it took all of my will-power to attempt to concentrate on what was going on around me. Of course by the time I arrived home he was oblivious to his congested state, happily munching on a banana, watching Chicken Little, snuggled in on the sofa with his dad. That night I made him a huge bowl of home made tomato soup – that along grilled cheese is the perfect childhood cold remedy.

Back to School So Soon??

The summer has flown by in a mere instant this year and I’m not looking forward to fall with my usual reverence. Normally by now I am getting excited about the back-to-school sales, the prospect of wearing sweaters again and the thoughts of Thanksgiving and Halloween preparations. By mid September my brain is customarily searching out fall colours – both in shop windows and the tree-lined streets of my neighborhood.

For some reason this year is different.

I lament the end of the summer season and wish it would go on just a little longer. It seems like only a month ago that we brought home a new barbecue and began the plans for our summer grilling menu. It feels as though it was only last week that we were taking Leith to the various swimming pools and splash pads in the neighborhood, talking about how it was going to be a long, hot summer, spent mainly water-side. It does really feel like yesterday that I planted my miniature herb garden out in the backyard and was looking forward to many delicious meals planned around its bounty. Summer has come to an end entirely too soon.

I can’t even try to ignore it like I might have in past years because Tuesday signaled a huge change in this Domestic Goddess’s house. For the first year ever both of my boys went to school. Yes, Leith and S. trotted off with their backpacks and their lunchboxes on Tuesday morning while I went to work. S. has rejoined the University ranks and Leith has at long last connected with the some daycare buddies. My life now revolves around making lunches, planning our dinner menus and telling the two men in my life that "yes, you have to go to daycare/school today…that’s the way it goes".

By the way, if anyone has any suggestions on how to plan weekly dinner menus I’d greatly appreciate you sharing them – I’m still struggling with doing this and the once-weekly shopping expedition.